Fireflies flash, kids toss dough and community thrives. 
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customers taking pizza slices from sheet pan
Credit: Nate Luke

When Curtis and Sarah Millsap began making pizzas on their farm in Springfield, Missouri, Curtis and the crew would try to stump Sarah with surplus produce. She proved unflappable. Bumper crop of zucchini? Marinate the squash and add sausage made from the family's hogs. Cilantro? Go Thai with peanut sauce. Beets? Pair them with blueberries and paint the pie purple.

pizza making crew laughing
pizza toppings peppers and onions
people lining up for pizza
Left: Credit: Nate Luke
Center: Credit: Nate Luke
Right: Credit: Nate Luke

Turns out, almost anything baked with cheese on a wood-charred crust tastes delicious—a freewheeling philosophy that guides the Millsap Farm Pizza Club. Each Thursday, May through October, inventive toppings (plus plain cheese for kids and purists) tempt hundreds of guests to the farm. The atmosphere lures them too. "There is a sense of belonging and inclusion," Curtis says. "Kids can run around and play on the tire swing. Itty-bitty ones can be taken by their parents to see the chickens. And elders can just sit back, drink wine and hear the music. There are not many places in the world that include everybody anymore."

The scene he paints is one the couple imagined—in spirit, if not in detail—when they purchased the 20-acre property 15 years ago. The Millsaps had little agricultural experience but dreamed of a living that could involve their children and neighbors. They trialed and errored, sowed vegetables, raised livestock, sold shares, and worked farmers markets. They also grew their family, to eight daughters and two sons. At some point, a volunteer suggested pizza, inspired by a Wisconsin farm. The idea percolated, and in 2013, after a year of experimentation, Pizza Club launched on a drizzly evening. A singer-songwriter friend delivered the first entertainment. And people kept coming back.

woman writing on chalkboard a frame
wood fire pizza oven baking pizzas
Sarah and Curtis Millsap with pizza
Left: Credit: Nate Luke
Center: Credit: Nate Luke
Right: Credit: Nate Luke
community enjoying pizza by fire in lawn chairs
Credit: Nate Luke

Curtis likes to say that less is more with pizza. Treat the dough lightly. Spread sauce sparingly. Scatter toppings loosely. But some things, the intangibles, you want in abundance. "Our repeat people enjoy getting to know each other," Sarah says. "They develop a community with people they would never rub shoulders with in regular life, sharing a table and seeing beyond any presumptions they have of one another before they sit down and talk." That's a proud achievement for pizza, and for a pair of unlikely farmers—any way you slice it.

colorful vegetable pizza slices
Credit: Nate Luke